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Volkswagen Passat sedan 2015 review

Jack Pyefinch road tests and reviews the all-new Passat at its international launch.

Imagine being told that Sprite, the colourless, essentially flavourless fizzy drink, was Coca Cola's biggest-selling product. You wouldn't buy it for one sugary second, but here's an equally shocking sales story that's actually true; the biggest-selling Volkswagen in the world is the Passat, the slightly bland but wildly popular mid-sizer that goes gangbusters in countries like Turkey,  China, the UK and Germany.

So much so, in fact, that a Passat is bought somewhere in the world every 29 seconds, which adds up to more than 3000 a day, and that was before the launch of the all-new and vastly improved eighth generation of this incredibly popular vehicle.

In Australia, of course, the Passat is well and truly outsold by the car we most associate with VW, the Golf, and the Polo as well, but the new one is less bland looking, inside and out, and so much better - and more Golf-like - to drive that it might, finally, make some sales impact locally.


Volkswagen never make bold leaps with exterior design - the Golf is a great example of evolution rather than revolution - so the slightly sharper but still familiar look of the Passat is no surprise. The slightly edgier front end is a nice touch, and they have done what they can to fix what was, by their own marketing manager's admission "not a particularly emotional car".

The interior is a bigger step ahead, however, with the highlight being the Active Info Display, a 12.3-inch TFT screen of superb quality and clarity that sits right in front of the driver's eyes and - just like the Audi TT's much lauded Virtual Cockpit - allows you to personalise the size and position of your dials, the satnav screen and so on.

It's a better, and better-looking, system than some far more expensive cars can boast, including the futuristic BMW i8.

There's 26mm more head room in here too, plus a boot that's 47 litres bigger in the wagon (they call it the Variant) or 21 litres up in the sedan.


In Europe, where billions of Passats will be sold, you can have a choice of what seems like 500 or so engines, and an excellent six-speed manual gearbox is also available. We're unlikely to get the tech-tastic new GTE, a plug-in hybrid that combines its two power sources for 160kW and uses just 1.7L/100km.

We might get the new 2.0-litre big-turbo TDI with 176kW, which is smooth, quiet and powerful to drive, but it will depend on demand. So far Australia will definitely get a 2.0-litre TDI with 132kW and 380Nm and a 1.8-litre TSI with 132kW and 280Nm. Both of which are familiar from the Golf range, and thus excellent. A seven-speed DSG will be the only transmission offered.


On top of its eight airbags, the new Passat gets City Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection (brakes the car for you at city speeds if you don't, saves pedestrians lives), Rear Traffic Alert (to stop you reversing out into an oncoming vehicle) and Traffic Jam Assist, which saves you from fatigue by stopping, starting and even steering the car at speeds of up to 60km/h.


The funny thing about driving Passats of old was that once you'd done it, you struggled to remember a thing about it - much like watching an Adam Sandler movie.

This new version, however, the first since 2005, is far more memorable, and even enjoyable. That's because they seem to have taken everything they know about making a Golf fun to drive and put it in the Passat.

The all new progressive steering means you get a lot more feedback, as long as you've selected Sport mode, and sharper turn-in as well. Clearly, this is meant to be a family hauler rather than a sports car, but there's a reasonable amount of fun to be had through bends and understeer only kicks in if you're being reckless, or driving the slightly heavier handling wagon versions.

There are some really exciting engines in the range, including a startling 2.0-litre TSI that arrives next year, making 206kW, but VW's ability to get high-revving, highly impressive performance out of small power plants is already well known and even the tiddling 1.8-litre unit provides decent pace. As is often the case, though, the 2.0-litre turbo diesel's extra torque shove makes it the one to go for.


We simply don't have the space to list all the technology that VW has jammed into the new Passat - they say it features more tech advances than any car they've ever launched - but it's worth mentioning Trailer Assist at least, which lets you use the wing-mirror-adjustment buttons as a joystick to guide your boat or caravan while taking your hands off the wheel.

The level of high-end inclusions - most visibly typified by the Active Info Screen - makes this Passat feel a whole lot more special than those of old, and the fact that it drives so much like a slightly larger Golf, which it is, essentially, makes it a lot more fun as well.

It might well be time for Australians to jump on the bandwagon with this car, which, with prices tipped to start at under $40,000 when it arrives here late next year, could be the premium-quality family vehicle you can actually afford.

Pricing guides

Based on 86 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

118 TSI 1.8L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $12,800 – 18,480 2015 Volkswagen Passat 2015 118 TSI Pricing and Specs
118 TSI Special 1.8L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $15,200 – 21,450 2015 Volkswagen Passat 2015 118 TSI Special Pricing and Specs
130 TDI Highline 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP $15,100 – 21,230 2015 Volkswagen Passat 2015 130 TDI Highline Pricing and Specs
130 TDI Highline Special 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP $17,800 – 24,750 2015 Volkswagen Passat 2015 130 TDI Highline Special Pricing and Specs
Stephen Corby
Contributing Journalist